You hem me in.

June 20, 2012

Posted by Caitlin

For you created my inmost being,
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
{psalm 139:13-14a}

I think I don’t always realize that everything comes back to this one point in the Bible.

God created me.  And in me, He put in a bit of His character.  Every part of my person is a direct reflection of the Maker, so who am I to whine and moan and complain that I need to be better, to be more this, to have more that, to not like a particular part?  Who am I to criticize the holy perfection that is the Lord?

And why would he spend so much time to then simply ignore me?  No, he created me because he loves me.  And for that, I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

 I am His and He is mine. That should always be enough.

Who’s The Boss?

October 17, 2011

Today’s post is written by Tyler Snow. Tyler lives in Arlington, TX and gets to meet famous people at her job. We can’t say enough good things about her, honestly. 

I sometimes consider that my life has been full of nothing but dead ends. I’m not where I would have always thought I’d be at this age. I would have liked to be married. I would have liked to be within a few years of starting a family. I would like to be further along in my career. I’d like my entire family to live in the same country… And the list goes on.. Through seasonal friendships, rejections for employment, and many other situations there’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and many lessons to learn. I could see it as failure, as unlucky circumstances, or I can be thankful for all I’ve missed and all I’ve experienced along the way because it means there’s much greater things in store. You have to go through the bumps in the road to appreciate the smooth ride ahead.

It’s really all about your perspective. The paths I’ve tread were never wrong. For each place, time, and person served a purpose. Whether to teach or show me something, to guard me, or prepare me, each step has been valuable and intentional. That’s not to say it didn’t hurt, and I wasn’t broken. But I have to remind and encourage myself, through the doubt, the worry, the pain, don’t see it only as suffering and don’t see it as troublesome. Flip the script and see that you have to fail before you can see it through; you have to lose to persevere. It’s all to strengthen you, and make you earn, appreciate, and value what’s ahead.  “It’s the way the sun will rise through the darkest night. Yeah, it’s always been worth the fight” (Eli Young Band)

I am a strong, independent woman but I can’t control everything. It’s too much pressure and too much responsibility. It’s really not meant to be that way, anyway. I am not in charge. I’m not running this show. God is. I have to check myself daily and remember I make the decisions, but there’s someone greater pulling those strings. I’m just the puppet, I’m just the clay. HE is the potter, he is the Master. He is in control and his plan is being fulfilled with each and every step I take. “For everything there is a season..”  I may not see or understand. It may not be what I expected or wanted, but it’s not about me. I’m not in control. It’s about faithfully following God and putting my trust and hope in him despite myself. But even when the trials come and I feel overwhelmed, I will praise you in the storm because I know it’s then that you’re working the hardest on me and for me.

I know it may sound cliché, but it’s the truth that I’m living and learning daily. It’s nice to know that even when I feel defeated, expendable, or hopeless that there is something greater around the corner and that these times are necessary for bringing the others to light. I relax when I realize that when nothing else seems encouraging, God is there to walk me through it all, comfort me and show me something greater. It’s all just temporary, and I can delight in the knowledge that I am strong when I rely on HIM, instead of my own efforts.

So, I’d like to leave you with this: how do you measure your experiences? And, who controls your life? Do you need the same wake-up call that I so regularly do? Your outlook can really change how you feel and the adjustment makes all the difference in the world. It’s up to you how you handle it, and who you let control it. Otherwise, it can quickly control you. Make the right choice, it can really transform you.

Letter To My Son

October 7, 2011

Written by Jordan

Dear Son,

I wanted to write you this letter to share a few things with you. You see, there’s still a few months to go until I get to meet you, but I hope you will one day read this letter. If, for some awful reason, we never do get to meet, just know that I love you very much. One day you’re going to grow up and become a boy, then you will become a man. Before you grow up, though, I hope you read this letter and take heed the advice and wisdom I am about to impart on you.

I’m a grown woman who has both good and bad experiences with guys of all ages. You see, your dad is one of the good ones and has been nothing but good to me. Boys can be jerks, plain and simple. Especially high school boys. High school boys will say mean things to insecure girls because they believe they have power over them. That is not true, son. Men and women are equals and should be treated as such. Just because you’re a boy does not make you better than a girl. Being a boy actually gives you more responsibilities than girls. When you see another boy talking bad about another girl, then it is your responsibility to make him stop. When you see a girl walking down the hall carrying a heavy bag or has an arm load of books, offer to help carry the items. If you see a woman walking into a building the same time as you, then open the door for her and allow her to go first. It’s called being a gentleman, and no son of mine is going to put himself before a woman. Now, I know that women can take care of themselves and don’t need to be defended. When you stand up for a woman, don’t do it in a derogatory or accusatory tone. Women are not weak and do not want to be treated as such. It hurts when men see us that way. Just be kind and courteous and chivalrous and women will love you. Also, girls really don’t like it when you make fun of them. Actually, no one does, so don’t do it. Gossip is not good, either. Keep those things to yourself.

When it comes to violence, there is always another option. You know what the greatest weapon is in the world? Your mind. Use it. If someone starts a fight with you, hold back your anger and refrain from violence. Use common sense and words to resolve the situation. Yeah, I know boys get into scrapes and stuff, and I’m sure you will, but ask yourself if punching someone in the face is really the right way to solve something. You’ll both get hurt and the conflict will still be around, just waiting to be resolved.

Please, I beg you, please play video games, read comics, watch Star Wars and other “nerdy” sci-fi shows, and read Tolkien, George RR Martin, Rowling, Dickens, Twain, Lewis, Shakespeare, James, Byron, Wilde, Woolf, and countless other greats. That’s all your father and I did when we were younger (and still do to this day), and we came out perfectly fine. Learn how to use a sword to navigate your way through Hyrule, or a well-timed jump to defeat Bowser. Learn who Admiral Akbar is and what a Taun Taun is. If you hear us mention “Browncoats” or “The Doctor” you should be able to understand who and what we are talking about. I hate to tell you this, but time travel is still just a dream as of now. And finally, please read one Jane Austen novel before you marry.

Your father and I both believe in God. We have seen Him do miracles in both of our lives, but we have also seen the times where it seems like He abandons us. Our parents also believe in God and that’s where our faith began. But, my parents also allowed me the privilege to believe what I want to believe in. I am going to bestow that same opportunity to you. Yes, we will go to church, but there will be a point in your life where you will not be sure what you believe in. It is going to be up to you, and you alone, to find out exactly what you believe in. I will support you while you struggle with your faith. Your father and I are also political people, and while we don’t always agree politically, it’s important, just like religion, that you find out what is important to you and what you are passionate about. The most important thing, son, is to never allow others to sway what you believe in. You will a lot of people coming at you with all their differing viewpoints. Listen, learn, and engage. But, if you are swayed, make sure it is for the right reason and you truly believe it.

There will come a day when you will fall in love with someone. There will also be a day when that someone will break your heart. I will be there to pick you up. You will meet someone else and soon that person will be the love of your life. It may not be the last relationship you will be in, but you will learn things from that relationship. There will also, unfortunately, come a day where you will break someone else’s heart. It’s ok to do this. Trust me. The thing is, if it’s a woman, she might be angry with you and say things that will hurt you even more. She has no right to talk to you like that, but be a gentleman. Also, never break up with someone over the phone or through a text message. That’s weak, son, and the person you’re with deserves to be broken up with face-to-face. It’s probably going to be one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. Finally, never cheat on anyone. Be a better man than that.

There will also come the day when you’re going to want to take the next step in your relationship. Sex is a wonderful thing, but just because you’re dating someone does not mean you must have sex with that person. Ideally I would like for you to be thirty and married when you take that step. If, though, you don’t, just remember to be safe. Finally, if you break up with that person, that doesn’t mean you have to sleep with the next person you date. Just because you have sex once does not mean you have to every time or with every person. It’s OK to say no, and most of the time is the right thing to say. Never take advantage of a woman who has had too much alcohol and cannot make decisions for herself. A real man does not need to prove himself.

If you fall in love with another man instead of a woman then I will still love you. Just know that. Not everyone will, but I will. If you’re short or bald or blind or fat or weak or anything else, I will love you and you will always be perfect to me.

You’re going to go through a rebellious phase sometime in your life. Just remember two things: your mother has feelings, and earrings and tattoos can be removed. If you want to go crazy and get an earring, be my guest. If you want to get a tattoo, then be my guest. I will, however, not be paying for any of it. Also, by the time you’re a father you’ll be taking those earrings out and having those tattoos removed. See, just a waste of money, so you might as well invest it.

If you don’t grow up to be a doctor, or a famous actor, and find yourself in the most boring job with boring people, just remember one thing: unimportant people are often the most important people in the universe. This is a true statement and they are most often the people who make the biggest impact on the world. Just make sure you do something that makes you happy, and not because of the paycheck. Money is not the most important thing, no matter what we’re taught.

I love movies and television and music and literature. I hope to be able to relate to you in these areas. Also, your father will want to teach you how to play golf. Whether you want to or not, let him. You might actually love it. Also, I expect you to be able to play at least three instruments and to be fluent in Spanish, French, and possibly Mandarin. You will play soccer and basketball and baseball, but we might draw the line at football — especially while you are young. I know your grandfather is a football coach, but let’s wait until your brain is developed and you’re a little older before you go around tackling others and/or the one being tackled. You will also know how to cook and how to properly clean a bathroom. You will know how to laundry and how to wash dishes. That is just a given.

You will know about your uncle Jacob who lost his life to cancer at far too young an age.

And finally, there will come a day where you will leave and start a family of your own. When this happens, do not forget to remember me. Remember all the things your father and I taught you and teach others what you believe. I have no doubt that you will one day grow up to become a wonderful Godly man, and that you will have a spouse who adores you and children who look up to you. Maybe you will write them a letter similar to this one and share it with them. Either way, I can’t wait until that day. Until then, you’re going to have to put up with me being overprotective and overbearing. Just deal with it. I’ll even allow you to roll your eyes, if you’re so inclined.

There are many other things that I can’t wait to teach you and share with you. Until now, I leave you with this letter. If I can guarantee you one thing it’s that we’re going to have good times and bad times. We’re going to have tragedies and beautiful moments together. We’re going to have fun. I promise. And I can’t wait until that happens.

I love you,
Your Mother

Posted by Caitlin.

I randomly came upon this tonight–via facebook, of course–and I played it while my husband was in the room.  As we watched, listened, I thought, “I wish I was that girl:  with the boldness of Esther, the loyalty of Ruth, the tears and prayers of Hannah.”  After it was finished, my husband says, “I wish I was that man:  the leader of Moses and the obedience of Noah.”

Why is it that a poem about a single woman affects us married people so?

I don’t know why, but I do know one thing:  my man is THE man, the man I have always waited for, the man I will always dream about, the man I look forward to knowing even more.

And I am THE woman that my husband has waited for, has prayed for, has dreamed about, looks forward to knowing even more.

And I’d like to wrap that thought up nice and tight and carry it with me for life.

I guess my question for you is, who did you wait for?  Who are you waiting for?

Parenthood

September 19, 2011

Written by Jordan

One of my favorite things to do is watch television. I just think there is so much quality programming on right now that it fascinates me. I mean, I have other hobbies, too, but I legitimately love watching television. Watching one episode of a show is similar to reading one chapter in a book, or watching a few minutes of a movie: it’s an ongoing story with (hopefully) compelling and realistic characters. I watch a lot of different shows, so I approach each show differently. I don’t expect to watch Doctor Who the same way I watch Parks and Recreation. Among all the doctors and vampires and lawyers and crime scene shows, are shows full of heart and grace and compassion and love and conflict and intelligence. One of those shows is Parenthood.

I started watching Parenthood when it premiered three years ago for several reasons. One: I am a huge Friday Night Lights fan and Parenthood had most of the same people running it, and two: I am a Lauren Graham lover. I love her and think she shines when she is on my screen. When I started watching it, I didn’t want to get too attached because I knew it wasn’t going to last long. We got thirteen episodes. It wasn’t a show that I had to tune in for, or one I talked about all week-long while waiting for the next episode. I enjoyed it when I remembered it was on. Sometime last season, however, it became appointment viewing for me.

I don’t watch television for escapism like most people. I mean, just look at the reality shows out there that serve that purpose. I watch television for quality, as I already mentioned. Parenthood is that show for me. It’s about an extended family just going through the daily rigors of life. There is no supernatural element, no “monster of the week”, or a hyper intelligent, arrogant doctor. The characters are human beings who have to strive to make good decisions and pass them along to their children. These characters learn from their mistakes and grow and evolve and make sure those close to them don’t make the same mistakes. They have a need to be good and their maliciousness shine through in moments of trial, but they remember who they are and triumph over that evil. They’re normal people; much like you and I. They are a family.

We have Adam and Christina raising their teenage daughter Haddie and their son who has recently been diagnosed with Aspergers. Then there’s single mom Sarah raising two teenagers — Amber and Drew — and living back with her parents. There’s Crosby who has just found out he has a five-year-old son with a woman he had a fling with several years ago, then there’s Julia, a lawyer, and her stay-at-home-husband Joel who watches their six-year-old daughter Sydney. They are all siblings. Finally, we have Zeek and Camilla, patriarch and matriarch of the Braverman clan. The characters can be rude, mean, selfish, angry, petty, arrogant and extremely not likeable. Then, they can be full of heart, forgiveness, love, remorse, and happiness. Adam, the “hero” (if you will) of the story is the best example of this. He can get frustrated and yell at his wife. He can physically assault someone in line who makes fun of his son. He can hate his father for the way he was raised. He can be selfish. But, you want to keep rooting for him because he really is a good guy. He loves his wife and kids — he just get frustrated at them, as we are wont to do. He can be hotheaded and say things he regrets in the moment. But, think about it: aren’t we all like this? Don’t we all have those moments where we’re the bad guy or we’re tired of being the hero and just want to abandon it all for a moment of silence? Yes, exactly. That’s what makes Adam — and most of the other characters — so great and complex.

Each week we look into the lives of these ordinary individuals and get lost. Adam loses his job while also finding out his wife is pregnant. Sarah is turning 40 and wondering what she is doing with her life. Crosby is trying to make up for lost time by getting to know the son he never knew he had. Joel loves his daughter but struggles to find his identity. Amber rebels and Haddie begins to have sex. Max learns to live with his diagnosis and be normal. They take life one day at a time. They aren’t big dreamers or plan things for the future. These are ongoing story lines that really have no resolution. This show really doesn’t have a hook —  zombies, vampires, fairy tales, aliens — and it’s a hard show to get people to watch. Peter Krause (Adam) and Lauren Graham (Sarah) give Emmy worthy performances, but some of the best story lines have to do with Max (Max Burkholder) and the sublime Amber (Mae Whitman). Watching Lauren Graham and Mae Whitman make me forget all about her other TV daughter.

It’s really amazing a show like this is even on television right now. It’s a solidly rewarding drama and it’s not too late for you to get on board. It’s a show that embraces life’s everyday problems and doesn’t set out to solve them or have an answer for. It’s messy and irritating and emotional yet it serves to entertain us in the best way possible.

Parenthood comes on Tuesday nights on NBC at 10/9 central.

 

Posted by Caitlin.

Why is it that we have to find scandal in everything?

The secretary doesn’t come to work two days in a row:
“I wonder where she is?”
“I heard she was sick.”
“I bet she’s not.  I bet she’s faking it.”
“Maybe she actually went on vacation.”
“Nah, I hear she hates this place.”
“I think she got knocked up.”

Why is it when one person does something out of the ordinary for us, we immediately look for the scandal?  And I say we, because I’m totally guilty of doing it, too.  Like, when I hear someone is pregnant, I immediately count backwards to their wedding day to determine if she was pregnant before or after her nuptials.  Or if I see something on facebook, I become this crazy creeper to try and dig up the metaphorical dirt on the person.

I blame this on MTV and E! and those stupid reality TV shows that do nothing but promote scandalous affairs.

But really, I put a large part of blame on our humanity.  We desire gossip and scandal and unpredicatableness.  We need to have someone get pregnant out of wedlock, for someone to commit adultery, for someone to do something crazy in order to make our lives more interesting.

I find it sad that even people of faith love spreading gossip around.  I’ll never forget certain “pastors” of mine telling me that so-and-so pastor had an affair and boy does that really make them sick.  They’re just all twisted up inside about it.  But as they’re recounting the story to me, I have to wonder, “How sick can they be if they’re telling me in detail the whole sordid affair?”

I’ve been pondering on this for a while, and I honestly think that we live vicariously through scandal because we believe our own lives are too uninteresting to hold our attention.  But, if I think upon the topic even more, I come to realize that though I was never a teen mom, an adulterous pastor, or even a child who snuck a cookie when mom wasn’t looking, there are plenty of things that make my life interesting:

Having my first kiss.
Graduating number 10 in my high school class.
Going to college for the first time, and for me that meant the first time ever I was to leave home.
Spending a semester in bed because of an wrongful MS diagnosis; and then being healed by the illness that plagued me.
Getting psychologically jacked up by stupid boys and their testosterone-ruling mindsets.
Making a very pivotal decision to leave the first college for a completely different path.
Finding new friends on a completely new campus.
Getting my first apartment.
Meeting the literal “Man of my Dreams” and then having the prettiest wedding on the planet. (Srsly.)
Moving to Boston, the city I’ve dreamt about since I was 11.
Holding fourteen different odd jobs before finally landing a Kindergarten Teaching position; a job I swore I’d never have.

No, it’s not scandal–it’s not even worthy enough for gossip–but honestly, my 23 years have been wrought with all sorts of turmoil and tears only to be countered with long-lasting states of bliss.  I have been through so much, met so many people, traveled so many places, and still I long to have those moments where I can gossip about other people’s misfortunes.

Something just doesn’t seem quite right about that.

I’m thinking from now on, I’m going to worry about my own life.
I mean, I can barely find my keys in time to get to work in the morning.  There is no telling how my life would spin out of control if I didn’t pay any attention to it.

And I bet there’d be a whole lot more ups than downs should I give it all my attention.

And baby makes three.

September 13, 2011

Today’s guest blogger is Michelle Ashley.  At the age of 20, Michelle got married to her high school sweetheart and now lives in Washington, D.C. where her husband is stationed in the Army.  She gave birth to her first daughter a little over a year ago.

About twenty-three months ago I got pregnant. The next couple of months are a blur. I remember being sick all the time and crying myself to sleep most nights. I have never felt so alone. Well, it was not that I felt alone. I felt almost punished. After all, I didn’t want to have a child and I by no means was actually mature enough to become a mom. I wanted me time. I wanted time to get everything I had always wanted and spend time spoiling Ryan. I  had vacations planned for just the two of us. I had big dreams for our alone time before kids. I wanted to be selfish. In spite of not getting to live out my dreams of vacations and getting everything I wanted, I was miserably sick for dawn to dusk. During the course of the first five months of my pregnancy I lost over twenty pounds. And then to add insult to injury, walking around with my pregnant belly only caused everyone to stare. I could read their faces. It was a look as shame and disapproval, all those teenage girl getting pregnant outside of marriage. That is what they said with their eyes, and even if they did see the wedding ring their mind went to oh well she is got married after she found out she was pregnant. Nothing was worse than the judgment I received by people I didn’t know and who didn’t know my story.

I started questioning God. Why me, why now? What did I do to deserve this? I know what you are thinking, how can she think those awful thoughts, God has blessed her with a child. I never saw my unborn child as a blessing. I didn’t want it. This wasn’t what I had planned and there is nothing I can do about. It is not like I forgot to put something on my schedule so I will just have to reschedule it. So as I would get in the shower every night, I would suffer alone with my thoughts and feelings about this child to come.

I tried telling Ryan, but I got an empty look. He didn’t know how to help me and didn’t have the slightest idea what I was going through.  So there I was, I didn’t know what to do, how to handle any of this, and just wanted it all to go away.

I thought this was all a dream, that I would wake up and it would all go away. I had many thoughts of adoption, but how would I tell Ryan or my family or his family. I tried thinking of ways to make this go away. One night while I was in the shower, I remember thinking about having an abortion. I didn’t know how I would explain that. How would I justify that, when I know that what I believe in goes against that. Then I remember thinking what an awful person I was for thinking that. How could I think about discarding a life because it wasn’t on my timing. Of course, it just wasn’t about the timing. I knew that Ryan and I were way to selfish to have a child. I didn’t have any idea how we would pay for everything. I didn’t know a lot of things. I didn’t understand why God in all His wisdom would decide that at the age of twenty-two I was ready to be a mother. What did I do to make Him think that was a good idea?

I was quickly reminded as a verse in Psalms 115. “For our God sits in the Heavens and does what He pleases.” Why did this please Him? I mean if He wanted me to learn a lesson there were a million other ways that to help me learn, but having a baby, to me, seemed a little bit on the extreme side.

Over the course of the pregnancy I became ok with the idea of having a baby. I still wasn’t happy about it, but it wasn’t the worst thing in the world anymore. Then she arrived. That started the whole cycle over again. I knew that I would be the one to be responsible for taking care of her because Ryan had to work. I felt alone and hopeless. The reality of having her changed everything, a whole other reality set in once she got here. I was alone to take  care of her at night, and alone during the day with her. I knew that going out would not be as easy as putting on some shoes and walking out the door. I had to carry another person and all their things with me. There were days when I would just scream. I couldn’t handle the fact that I was alone and there was nothing any one could do about that. I couldn’t just give her away and go back to my life. She was my life now and I had to accept that. Again I tried telling Ryan, but he didn’t understand. I mean how was he suppose to understand when I could barely tell him what was actually going on.

It wasn’t until she was about six months old that everything starting changing. I talked with my mom, the therapist, and she told me that I should go see a doctor. I didn’t want to because I know they would just put me on some medication and I hated the thought. However I went and was diagnosed with PPD and given medication. I took the medication for about a week and could get over the fact that this was happening. I began to understand that this child of mine was a great thing. I don’t really know what changed exactly, but I stopped taking the mediation and over night my attitude changed. Thank God it did. I no longer felt hopeless and alone.

Now a year has come and gone and we are going to add to our little family. I am scared to think that I could go through everything again. I have prayed and prayed about this and I know God is showing me and telling me that this is where our life is going. It is now time for me to put my fears behind me and jump.